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I have a fully patched, pristine Windows XP box and would like to create virtual machines that have the exact same setup, OS and software - just differ in disk size, available RAM. The virtual technology does not matter (VMWare, VirtualPC, other), but is there a way to go from existing system to virtual machine? And can you do this for free?! I would sooner go this route than create and patch a new VM... Thanks for any advice.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted
  1. For converting the physical box to a virtual machine: VMware Converter. There's even a free version.
  2. For creating variations: Use linked clones to create a bunch of instances of that base machine, changing the RAM on each. You'll have to do a bit more work to change the disk size as you'll have to change the partition size and resize NTFS. I usually use sysrescuecd to do this to Windows virtual machines.
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This is indeed the blessed way. –  Alexandre Carmel-Veilleux Jun 7 '09 at 2:53

You may run into problems verifying the Windows license when you start the new instances of your VMs.

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... which can be resolved by calling up the number in the activation wizard and following the steps. –  tomfanning Aug 6 '09 at 22:49

VMware Converter. You can boot from the bootable version to convert or you can use the add in Converter in VC, Virtual Center. With the VC route you right click on the VMware server you want the Vm to run on and select import machine. Answer a few questions... and presto!

Some things to look out for... if you have more than one physical drive or partition on the physical box you will be able to chose to create one VMDK file with multiple drives within or one VMDK file per drive. In cause that doesn’t make sense. if the physical box has a C, D and E drives.. you can have

1 VMDK cool_box.vmk (has 3 partitions)

Or

cool_box.vmk = c drive

cool_box1.vmk = d drive

cool_box2.vmk = e drive

Also you will prob find you can get by with a smaler page file than in the physcial and less RAM and MOST one vCPU runs better than 2 or 4.

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Just for the record, as ServerFault seems to be very VMware oriented, this is also possible with Citrix XenServer. It works pretty much like VMWare, you put a CD into a machine and it gets uploaded to a virtualization server which then executes it.

The extra advantage is that you can have paravirtualization with Linux/BSD/Solaris which leads to much better performance then VMWare.

Also XenServer is much cheaper then VMWare.

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Free is cheaper than free? ESXi vs. XenServer Also, could you point to the documentation online for XenServer P2V that supports Windows? Everything I find on the Citrix site points to Linux only P2V and that modifies your kernel. –  Kevin Kuphal Jun 3 '09 at 17:00
    
Standard versions of both products are free but the other ones are not. XenServer like Xen Source supports Windows no problem. For existing Windows systems, ypu can use XenConvert (source XenServer Virtual Machine Installation guide). There are even Paravirtualization drivers for Xen (GPLPV). –  Antoine Benkemoun Jun 3 '09 at 17:56
    
Thanks Antoine. They sure do make it hard to find that information though. Googling "xenserver p2v" and "vmware p2v" come up with very different sets of useful information (the former being almost none) –  Kevin Kuphal Jun 3 '09 at 19:01
    
You are right, not so easy to Google XenServer info. But you will find everything you need here : support.citrix.com/product/xens/v5.0/doc –  Antoine Benkemoun Jun 3 '09 at 20:20

Vmware Converter is pretty trustworthy, although there are some caveats with whatever tool you use.

  1. RAID drivers, NIC bonding, USB devices, and a host of other things need to be removed before the P2V.

  2. OEM licensed OSes (ie you purchased a Dell server that came with Windows 2003 server) will not work.

P2Ver Beware! Good luck!

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